In the next few weeks we will bring you some reports from some of the couples' meetings as part of the project: "Knowing is the Beginning". In the second stage of the project, the participants were divided into couples who tell each other their personal bereavement story and their family narrative.
The first article is from the first meeting of Mashka Litvak and Id Abu Ayash, in Id's house in Beit Omar. Id and Mashka both lost their fathers in the 48 war. Id was six months old and Mashka's mother was pregnant with her. Years later Mashka lost her big and only brother, Arnon, in the army.
First meeting- Mashka Litvak visiting Beit-Omar
I got to Beit-Omar and Id and his family waited for me out side the house. I was welcomed and Hiam, Id's wife, took me immediately to the kitchen to see how she bakes the bread. Inside the house were Id, Hiam, the sons, Yussuf and Mussa, and the daughters, Marut and Amal. The eldest son, Muhammad, is married with three children, works as an engineer and lives in Jordan. Ibrahim, the second son, is an engineer who lives in Ramallah and Sammer, the third son studies in Ramallah. Their house is a big and tidy stone house with four bedrooms and a living room with big sofas. In the house they have a computer and a television. Around the house in a half a dunam size garden, Id grows some fruit trees, such as: apple, apricot, medlar, fig and lemon trees, and some vegetables.
Usama Abu Ayash, a Forum member, was our translator.
Id and I told each other about ourselves and our families' histories. The Abu Ayash family is from the area of what is today Kibbutz Lahav. A family of farmers, who earned their living from the 2000 dunams they had. At the beginning of the '48 war they were expelled and came to Beit Omar were they built their house. The rest of the Abu Ayash families are in a refugee camp in Jordan. Id's mother is from the Abdul Kader el Husseini family and Id's father, Mussa, (which is also the name of my father; Moshe), was one of El- Husseini's guards and fought against the Israelis.
On 15.5.48, in the battle over Gush Ezion, Mussa Abu Ayash, Id's father, got killed. In this battle the Jordanians had fifty casualties, fifteen of them from Beit Omar (Usama, the translators' grandfather, was also one of the casualties in this battle).
Id was six months old when it happened and had four big sisters. His mother hardly provided for her family. She used to sew, make and sell embroidery and wool weaving handwork.
I asked Id how he felt as an orphan and what his mom told him about his father. Id said that his mother used to tell him that his father was a hero and fought for the family land. It was hard for him to grow up as an orphan, he was very jealous of the other kids which had a father who held them, played with them, and loved them. He didn't have his father to hold and love him. He felt uncomfortable when other kids had new clothes and he didn't. He grew up in a poor household and as a child he felt that he has no hope. At school vacations he used to work for half a dinar a day in order to earn his school fee for the next year of 20 dinars. In 1961 he left school and started working and until 1967 succeed in earning 21 dinars.
I told Id that my feeling as an orphan was similar to his, I also didn't have a father to hold me and play with me and I used to be jealous of the kids who had more. While talking about our feelings as orphans I felt how much Id and I are alike. Our fathers' names are alike: Mussa and Moshe, and both of us didn't know our fathers.
Id didn't take part in the 1967 war and after the war he studied for a year in Jerusalem and became a plumber and a handy-man. Id started to work in Israel for two liras, in some building jobs in the Gush Dan area. He saved enough money to marry Hiam, and they got married in 1974. He built his house by himself and continued working as a contractor in Kibbutzim in Gush Ezion. He built the Kfar Ezion kitchen and was very friendly with the kibbutz members. After his children were born he started saving for their higher education. Muhammad the eldest was sent to study in university in the former U.S.S.R. and Ibrahim and now Sammer were sent to study in Ramallah.
Id always believed in Peace and was on good terms with the Israelis whose houses he built and was against the violence from both sides. He heard about the PCFF from Isaac Frnakental and decided that he didn't want his children to suffer and that something must be done for Peace. Id was a member in the Isaac Frankental delegation which met Yasser Arafat who gave them a permit for the PCFF activities on the Palestinian side.
Life in Beit Omar isn't easy. For a long time the IDF blocked the entrance to the village, soldiers used to stand at Id's balcony and from time to time used to shoot rubber bullets towards the people who walked down the street. The Abu Ayash family live next to the school, and pupils' demonstrations used to pass near their house and the area often turned into a battlefield. On the day of Arafat's death, there was a big demonstration at the village. Mussa, Id's son was there, and a good friend of his was killed (in the same demonstration Muayad Abu Awwad, Khaled Abu Awwad, our Palestinian G.M., son, was badly injured). I asked Mussa how he felt about having me, an Israeli, in their home. He said that I'm part of a bereaved family like him and a Peace activist, so he respects me and wish all Israelis were like me. I told Mussa about a Peace demonstration I was in (Feb. 1983), in which in I was wounded and another Israeli, was murdered.
We ate supper together and they prepared a special vegetarian dish for me. During supper we kept on talking about small things from our lives. They asked me where I served in the army and what did I do 40 years ago. I told them that I was an officer in the 67 war, 40 years ago and was part of the forces which conquered Gaza. During the war I wanted to meet my brother Arnon who was a company commander in Gaza. I entered Gaza with a tank carrier, stopped an IDF jeep and asked about my brother. The soldiers on the jeep called him on the radio communication unit. All this time there was still shooting around me, while I stood in the main street of Gaza. After a while I saw an army jeep coming fast towards me, my bother Arnon was in it. We hugged, kissed and cried in the street while the shooting continues around us.
Three years later he was killed at the Suez Canal.
The Abu Ayash family was moved by my story. Mussa and Yussuf said that they understand the relationship I had with my brother.
After I told my story Hiam said that I'm similar to Id and added in humor that I should have married him. I laughed and took the photo of Moshe, my spouse, from my purse. Hiam said: "if your Moshe is more handsome than Id, he's really yours…" After I showed her the photo she said that Moshe is handsome and it looks like he suits me. Meanwhile they brought their family photos, Mussa took some photos and Id brought his Hebrew study book. Marut wrote everything that happened at the meeting. Yussuf and Mussa asked many questions and expressed their wish for neighborly relationships with the Israelis. Yussuf told me that my visit brought him luck because today after six months he found a job.
I spent four hours in their home and after darkness came, I heard some gun shots. They weren't excited about it and told me that that's the way it is every evening. They offered that I stay and sleep in their house, and because I came only with my camera they suggested that I bring a bag next time. Hiam gave me some bread she baked, to take for my family.
We hugged, kissed and I invited them to visit me at my house in Negba.
The visit was fascinating as we talked about our feelings as war orphans and found many similarities in our thoughts and feelings. I felt their warmth and love and a true commitment to Peace and Reconciliation.
Today I know I have new friends. And thanks to the fact that I know the way to their home, it will be easier for me to come and visit them.